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Monton on ID

In response to those who’ve criticized the polemical tone of The Last Superstition, I have emphasized that while the arguments are directed at secularists in general, the polemics are directed only at those who, like Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens, have themselves already taken an arrogantly polemical and condescending tone with defenders of religious belief. As with physical violence, ideological aggression justly can and sometimes should be met with equal and opposite force.

But I have also emphasized that there are honorable and formidable atheists with whom I would never take such a tone. (I was a convinced atheist for a long stretch of my own life, after all.) J. L. Mackie, Quentin Smith, and J. J. C. Smart are three examples. Another is Bradley Monton, who has just published Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design. Monton rejects ID, but regards it as worthy of serious consideration and eschews the usual straw men and ad hominem attacks. I have not yet read the book – I just ordered it – but I look forward to doing so.

In TLS and in a long WWWtW combox exchange some months ago, I have been critical of ID from an Aristotelian-Thomistic perspective. But I have always deplored the thuggish, dishonest treatment ID theorists have received from most of their secularist critics. Monton hopes to move the debate to a more serious and fruitful level.

Monton is an honorable and courageous man. Go buy his book.

Comments (17)

I second Ed's comments. I've never met Brad, but I corresponded with him several months ago. It turns out that he, like Ed and myself, has been attacked in ways that are deeply uncharitable and unphilosophical. Here's an example from Monton's blog: http://tinyurl.com/ln5t4r

For goodness' sake. The Leiter intimidation machine apparently has its clones elsewhere. Making complaints about him to his chairman? What junk. Good thing Monton has tenure.

This is the one I love, Lydia:

(5) “The reason I asked Monton to take down the paper was that in one place he seemed to make a libelous insinuation about myself and others in the case.”

Cry me a river, Bobby. You really have no idea what libelous insinuation is until you've been lied about in the AAUP's magazine by Barbara Forrest and Glenn Branch: http://telicthoughts.com/105/

These people really have colossal cajones.

Well I am in the middle of chapter 2 so far (I received it today in the mail), and TLS is nothing if not well-written. Unless you go off into a profanity-laced rant for the next 300 pages, I am sure that the criticism is exaggerated.

Frank, when I saw the sentence that was supposed to be a "libelous accusation," I was amused and unimpressed. To put it mildly. The truth is that Quinn _has_ said something very much to the effect that it's okay to lie about one's area of scholarship if it advances The Cause, and now it appears that Barry Gross thinks something similar (see the quote from Gross that Monton gives). I think the sentence in question by Monton was making a very good point. Considering some of the pseudo-scholarship I have seen posing as philosophical writing on ID (I name no names, but you can ask me privately about the surprisingly wretched little article I have in mind), I wouldn't be at all surprised if Quinn and Gross are not the only people who think poor scholarship--which the scholar must know is poor scholarship--is justified if it advances the agenda of defeating the Evil Theocratic ID People-Eaters.

Those who whinge about a polemical tone are nearly always just fine with a polemical tone when it's their tone.

Perhaps you should do a parody of B. Forrest, et al and their nonsense and put Francis in a cape and super-hero leotard. Francis Beckwith: mild-mannered professor by day, at night he becomes CAPTAIN ID! :)

If there isn't wailing and gnashing of teeth, then you haven't made your point well enough to cause them the psychological agony of seeing their sacred cows roasted over a spit. I remember seeing the responses to the Irrational Atheist. You'd have thought that Vox Day committed an intellectual holocaust against his targets...

I was one who commented on the polemical tone of TLS, but not because I didn't think it was inappropriate. Being a Thomist, I think Feser's arguments are some of the best arguments there are. My problem, however, is that the atheists with whom I would be sharing TLS would be turned off by the polemics and never hear his brilliant arguments. I wish Feser had a less polemical version of the book. Again, I think the book is great. In fact, I will be going through the book with a group of college students and am looking forward to it. I simply wish there was an apologetics text as thorough as Feser's that I could safely share with my atheists friends.

My, I had no idea that atheists were such shrinking violets (aka wimps).

lol! They aren't wimps. They are sensitive. Large egos bruise easily. Believe me, I am fully aware of the double standard.

As I recall, Philip Quinn's essay was rather sarcastic about Ruse's behavior at the bar. I think it's misreading Quinn to say that Quinn endorsed Ruse's behavior. Ruse certainly didn't read it as an endorsement.

Quinn is certainly not being ironic. He says expressly, "If there are, then I think, though I come to this conclusion reluctantly, it is morally permissible for us to use the bad effective argument..." I have no doubt that Ruse was not pleased, though I didn't know it before. And I have no doubt that the real reason is that Quinn was engaging in too much frank speaking. Nobody likes to be called a fraud-for-the-cause, even if the person who says it adds, reluctantly, that the cause is so great that it may be necessary and permissible for us philosophers to take turns being frauds to defeat those demmed creationists.

Hello Leroy, you will be happy to learn that my forthcoming book Aquinas covers some of the same issues as TLS in greater depth and with no polemics whatsoever. I'll be posting an announcement about it before long.

Looking forward to it.

Lydia, sorry, I missed your reply.

The key figure of speech in Quinn is "washing one's hands in academia," which, of course, is a reference to Pilate, and is meant to be quite sarcastic. I seriously doubt that Quinn would have endorsed bad philosophy in any venue without extreme justification, which Ruse and Pennock didn't provide. Quinn sided with Laudan against Ruse, not merely in attacking Ruse's philosophy, but also in bemoaning the impact of Ruse's bad philosophy on the Arkansas decision.


I should have said that I paraphrased Quinn.

In your quotation, the key word is the beginning word, "if". Quinn is speaking hypothetically and is not endorsing Ruse's behavior.

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